Zeynep Akalin

Hello everyone! My name is Zeynep, and I am from Turkey. I would like to share my personal adventure with you, and I hope you enjoy reading it and it can be useful to you.

My beautiful and exciting adventure in Ghent started 4 months ago. I had to pack up everything and step out of my comfort zone once again. Once again? Oh yes… Before Ghent, I had the experience of living in Poland for a year and in Taiwan for 5 years. So, I know that being away from our comfort zone comes with its beauty and its challenges. Maybe we are not pampered by our families as before, and we often hide our problems so as not to upset them. We find ourselves far from our family, friends, food, and environment. Sometimes we feel lonely and question our decision to move to another country.


However, I am here to tell you that all these feelings are temporary. Trust me! Do you know why? Because many times I had a fresh start and each time I felt very lonely at the beginning of my adventure and at the end I never wanted to leave that country. Despite all these difficulties, there are also wonderful things that stepping out of our comfort zone can bring us. Getting to know new cultures, learning to live on our own, meeting many people from different countries, discovering new places in the world, falling in love, having new experience and many more... All this experience opens our minds and help us appreciate other cultures without judgment. Plus, studying abroad is always one of the best ways to immerse yourself in culture and find new friends or, if you're lucky enough, your true love!


I moved to Taiwan to study MBA in 2017 and at first, I felt completely alone for almost 6 months. Although I met a lot of people at first, of course, it was not easy to feel very comfortable all of a sudden. Time passed and I started to feel more familiar with the culture and my friends. I met so many amazing people during my studies, worked different part-time jobs, tried many delicious dishes from many cultures, traveled and partied a lot. After graduating, I got a job in Taiwan and started my working career there. I met more people throughout my working life and every day I felt more and more at home. After 5 years I was finally ready to move to Belgium. Moving to Belgium was my choice, but that didn't change the fact that I cried the entire flight when I said goodbye to my friends and my beautiful second home, Taiwan.


The reason I'm telling you this story is because some of you might be feeling lonely or maybe haven't met anyone could match with as a friend. However, I want you to trust me that you are not alone, and that this situation will not last forever. Don't stay in your room. Of course, studying is important, but we are all here to get to know more people and explore this beautiful culture and city. Join some student clubs, have fun, talk to the people in your class, find a part time job, attend school events, and enjoy the Ghent festivals throughout the summer. I think Ghent is perfect for all this and one of the best places to be a student.


3 years ago, I chose to come to Ghent and continue my education at Ghent University. However, due to Covid-19, I had the chance to move here only this year. The city fascinated me from the first step I took, and I felt my choice was the best! Ghent is a city with many opportunities for students and Belgians are extremely hospitable. It is very easy to do many things in this quaint city and Ghent University makes the process of getting used to the city even easier with its events. On the other hand, the city is perfect for discovering new hobbies. In Ghent, everyone can find something they like to do and have fun trying something new every day. I know that cold and dark winter days and exams can sometimes make us homesick. However, when I feel like it, walking around the city and seeing the beautiful night view of Ghent from the bridges is one of my favorite things. Give yourself at least 6 months to get used to this beautiful city and country. Soon you will feel homesick for Ghent when you are in your home country.


I wish you all a wonderful year in this beautiful country. Please enjoy discovering yourself, different cultures and good friends along the way!


Good luck everyone! 😊